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The Thatch Catch

What’s the catch?

The catch with thatch lies in its material property of being combustible. This means that when something that is constructed

from thatch catches fire it will beyond any doubt spread rapidly. The regulations for thatch roofs are therefore not concerned with its visual qualities but rather the safety risk that it brings about when chosen as a construction material. Regulations concerning thatch roofs can be found in Part T- Fire protection of the South African National Standards 10400 document. (, 2013).

Why is it important?

The regulations for thatch roofs are important because they deal with the protection and safety of people in and around them as well as surrounding properties. (SANS10400-Building Regulations South Africa, n.d.) The legislation endeavours to ensure occupants are protected in the event of a fire by providing guidelines on thatch roof construction. These guidelines minimize the spread and intensity of the fire, prolong the stability of a structure and ensure adequate access to detect and control the fire. (, 2013) Existing thatch lapas that are situated near boundary lines are most likely not compliant with the regulations and are extremely difficult and costly to get them to comply.

What are these guidelines?

Part T- Fire protection of the South African National Standards 10400 document details the required fire protection systems and safety distances based on the buildings occupancy class along with formulas to calculate them. These formulas consider several things and are quite complex. Cheer up! at We Do House Plans, with our collaborative team of professionals we do the maths, so you don’t have t

o. Other guidelines specify details about erecting thatch lapas i.e., free-standing thatched roof lapas with a roof plan not exceeding 20m², thatched roof la

pas that are greater than 300m² and how to erect a thatched roof lapa next to an existing building. (, 2013)

How to manage it?

The main problem with thatch roofs is the safety risk that it causes because they can easily catch alight especially when exposed to lightning. There are ways to manage this through treatment of the thatch with a fire- retardant system (, 2013) or lightning protection system (SANS10400-Building Regulations South Africa., n.d.) both internally and externally but this comes at a hefty price. The most effective measure of protection is thus to completely remove the thatch and replace it with a non-combustible roofing material or better yet play it safe and demolish the entire thatch structure. #savingontherainyday

References (2013). Fire Protection. [online] Available at:

SANS10400-Building Regulations South Africa. (n.d.). Thatch Roofs and Lightning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2022].

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